What Apollo 11 Can Teach Us About Team Building?

During the Apollo program of the 1960s & '70s, NASA sent around 9 missions to Moon. And  six of these landed astronauts securely on its surface, the only time that humans have visited a different world.  20 July 2019 marks down 50th anniversary of the first human Moon landing on 20 July, 1969 as a part of NASA's Apollo 11 mission. 

There is something a bit embarrassed about the 50th anniversary of the first moonwalk. This was so long before. It is no longer like “we” who put man on the moon, it is “they” who put man on the moon. Thus, why cannot “we” do it? Really, it is tough not to feel it for all the technological advances of the last half-century, and America has actually lost something—an ability to unite & overcome the long odds of achieving greatness.


At certain level it is a bit silly. The US stopped visiting moon because people of American stopped seeing a point in it, and not because they have stopped to be capable about it. No fresh footprints on lunar surface aren’t evidence that the US has fallen in the new Dark Age. Still, historic Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo programs actually have something for all of us to teach. They were the shining success story for building & managing the complex and decentralized technological enterprise, which accomplished audaciously ambitious goal. However, in November 1968, around 7 months before Apollo 11 landing, journal Science wrote the space program’s “highly valuable spin-off will be human instead technological: and better knowledge on how to plan, monitor and coordinate multitudinous or varied activities of organizations needed to accomplish high social undertakings.” 


What This Moonshot Teach Us?


As a founder of a digital transformation firm that strives in bringing the organizations in the 21st century, I am always very enthralled with the herculean undertaking of Apollo 11 missions. Tenacity that it took to untie years of concerns and questions is remarkable. That collective drive of reaching the goal as well as solve the impossible problem must give each entrepreneur jolt of inspiration. Keep in mind, that impetus to do moon landing & return was hardly the random desire. This was a massive win or “we” in the United States required, for showing up Soviet rivals. But, it was very akin to the company owner knowing that the disruptive startup is just jockeying to take their organization’s top spot. Suppose the first company cannot become ingenious ASAP, then it can lose everything.

To make sure, ingenuity means taking down the risks as well as working in the darkness, without any safety net. And, NASA’s space engineers did not have any clue on how to get the astronaut back from moon in the way that wasn’t cost-prohibitive. After that, somebody devised concept of making the main unit, which will orbit moon, and allowing lunar landing module descend independently to the moon's surface as well as return to docked unit. In that way, Apollo craft did not have to take it off from the moon's surface, and making the return tour simpler to accomplish. So, in short, the creative solutions are the whole thing and point to important lesson we will learn from this moon landing. Here’re 3 more that are as valuable:


Big Ideas With The Tight Deadlines Will Drive Success and Achievement


The main goal of US was sending their man to the moon by the end of the 1960s. Having the deadline that tight has what pushed everybody to pull off the huge coup. Without these deadlines at place, the priorities generally tend to slip, or inventive thinking generally tends to go on the wayside.

SpaceX and Elon Musk function in this same way, just by setting out the tight timelines for realizing the vast gains. Already, Mars-headed plan has made strategies to unleash the Starhopper to test their hops & chops. Even though reports recommend that SpaceX ran into some hiccups with the prototype, and those issues appear to be totally out of the way. That means that Musk could set the next aggressive deadline.

When you are undertaking any big and new initiative and project, try to set the aggressive deadline & see what transpires. Pressure of performing leads to the brave actions and bold results.


Well-Known Plans Keep Everybody Do Best


When everybody knows about their organization's vision and goal, they will see how the small accomplishments will contribute to such thing. The fantastic story from early years of space race actually shows us how everybody will get motivated when they know why the work is very important. What story? As per legend, President Kennedy visited the NASA hangar. He asked the janitor like what was he doing. And in response, janitor just replied he was putting man on the moon. And his reaction showed that he was not just toiling for the paycheck but it has a purpose in this statement.


In this same spirit, ensure that your teams are highly invigorated by challenge and totally understand the roles to make such challenge a big success. When everybody buys in, mission gets very simple to accomplish. You need to make an effort of keeping all the team members up on speed at regular intervals with the series of group meetings, reports, and any mechanism, which works for the particular company.


Working Straight With The Internal Resources Will Align Visions


At NASA, the departments worked together for achieving the micro-goals, which applied to a larger picture. Suppose you want the team unity and cohesion, foster pathways as well as communication between or among all groups and individuals that have to come together for breathing life in larger vision. As mega company, even Google launches their moonshots all time just by investing in the companies & people. Up recently, extension of corporation was approved to offer self-driving auto service to the California riders. In addition, Google has also invested around $2.5 billion in projects driven perfectly by aligned external and internal partnerships that aim to extend human lifespan just by tackling the conditions associated commonly with aging.

How does your company achieves such type of symbiosis can be unique, however, it can start with the communication. For own aims, attempt to get everybody on the same page –or keep them there – and with the frequent check-ins & brainstorming sessions. You will remove any barriers that will prevent people to interact easily as well as embolden your entire teams to perform confidently in a pursuit of their goal. This trust can go a very long way.


Have a Real Mindset And A Big Goal


Some goals are much bigger than landing of a man on the moon as well as bringing him safely. This goal was already set before anybody had orbited the earth, and just 7 days after we launched our man in space. President John Kennedy was ridiculed and maligned by a few for setting out the goal. This was “impossible and yet, it achieved”. You won’t reach your goal you do not set. And suppose you set a goal very low, you might reach it, but won’t achieve what you actually want.

Understand how big are the goals? Do you find it big enough in inspiring or scaring you & your team a bit? No, they may not be very big enough.   Goal like stated by Mr. President in the famous “Man to Moon” talk was very clear. “Before the end of the decade, we may send the man to moon & return him to earth safely.” The goal, whereas big as mentioned, meets the criteria of one’s goal standards. This goal is also very crystal clear like a timetable. Do you find your goals to be clear? Are they understandable? Are they having any specifics in terms of target & timetable? Not, it’s time to reassess it. Still not, get prepared for the failure in your achievement.


Get the Compelling Reason Why


Apollo 11 project is instructive in such area. Different groups and people had got different reasons on why reaching to moon mattered a lot to them. Unless everybody has the compelling reason why, fortitude, discipline as well as focus needed to achieve any goal might eventually wane. Everybody had some reason, however, they were not all the same reason. The leaders often try and convince the people of such reasons, instead allowing the people to find own reasons to get engaged in & committed to achievement of the goal.

Totally important is while all parties involved had some reasons, but some were about goal (moon) itself. For a few, it was “beating” Soviets, for some to provide jobs and stimulate the economy, and for some it was national pride.

Finding your purpose & “why” for achieving the goals is hardly about goal itself. So, when we help people to find deeper meaning, chances of the goal achievement will ratchet up permanently and quickly.

To make sure, realizing the moonshot needs agile design thinking, problem-solving skills as well as willingness of thinking way beyond known and obvious. Still, nothing is just impossible forever. Allow your mind to dream of the moon & back, and take the initial small step in fulfilling your goal. Click here for Education blog